We finished our sixth practice today and thus far we have gotten through the majority of our first and second down work. That would be our run packages, our run defenses, our protections, and some of our blitzes. We’re through about three quarters of that on first and second down. We’ve introduced our nickel, our sub, third down. The first and second down includes all personnel groupings. We then introduced the nickel, which we have gotten into, that would be all third down including third and long. We got a chance to be extensively in the red zone. We’ve had that as a mixed down on first and second down, and also subbed into the red zone, and worked on our blitz packages down there. Yesterday we had a two-minute drill and today we started working on our short yardage. So, besides the goal line, which we will work on as we progress here, we’ve gotten a lot done the last six days. That being said, we are excited about going into mini-camp next week. It is going to be open to our fans on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. We’ll go back a little bit in our install and review first and second down, nickel, short yardage red zone, and two-minute, and then we will get ready to get into our last week. So far things are going well. Jermon Bushrod (shoulder) and Jahri Evans have started to practice this week. We’ve integrated them into the offense and they both look good. Jonathan Casillas is still nursing a back (injury), and he’s still trying to get better with that. Chris Ivory had just a little hamstring, a tweak, he’s fine. He could’ve practiced today, but we held him out.
On a few third and long snaps, it looked like you had four defensive ends. Are you experimenting with different packages?
We’re going to mix up personnel just a little bit. You know there is a difference now, when you say sub. You could have three wide receivers on first and second down, and there is also a run threat with that, you have a regular four down scheme. When you get to third down, now you try to find the combination of your best pass rushers to get in there and affect the quarterback. That could be a defensive end playing inside as well, as a defensive tackle. This is the time to kind of work with those combinations.
Under this new Collective Bargaining Agreement, what can these guys wear and what can you do during mini-camp?
That’s a great question and I’m not being wise when I answer this. They can wear their pajamas, and we want as little contact as possible and I’m all for that. The season is grueling, it’s long. I think for our offensive and defensive linemen, what we’ve tried to teach is: ‘bring your hands first, your feet second, 1-2 shut it down, and try to have as little helmet-to-helmet contact as we can.’ But it’s non-padded contact. That being said, that is the antithesis of what these guys are used to doing, so we have to work on tempo and the non-contact part. We have been injury-free (touch wood). The guys are really trying to adhere to what we’re trying to teach, but I’m all for that.
Can you accomplish what you could’ve accomplished with the old CBA?
I just don’t think you can have a defensive lineman coming off full-speed and an offensive lineman mirroring him, without there being contact. You could probably work somewhat on your footwork and hand placement, but at the end of the day you might create more bad habits than good habits. As long as the playing field is equal, and all the teams are doing the same thing, I’ve got no problem with that.
How difficult has it been with them (defensive/offensive linemen) to adjust?
It’s hard for guys like Will Smith and Sedrick Ellis because they are full-speed guys. You have to slow them down, and they’re not used to that. Our offensive line has really done a good job. Our offensive line, their tempo in and out of the huddle, their pass protection, their communication. We’ve done it in the early part of the camp without Jahri (Evans) and without Jermon (Bushrod). It has really been good. Defensive lineman are used to playing downhill, coming off the snap, playing with a pad level, so there has been a little bit of a learning curve.